Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: Why Do Writers Write?

Throughout my life I have 
considered the question, 
"Why do writers write?"

Most school years,
my third grade students and I would 
brainstorm a list of reasons for writing
and group them into categories:
inform, persuade, entertain.

Source:  wikimedia

Pedestrian ~ but a good jumping off point
for discussing the question with seven and eight year olds.

Recently at the British Museum,
I asked myself the question again 
as I marveled at the most famous cuneiform tablet 
from ancient Mesopotamia.

The Flood Tablet ~ The Epic of Gilgamesh
British Museum
Nineveh, Royal Library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal
 Reign:  669-631 BC. 

This tablet and others
record one of humankind's oldest stories
and the world's first great literary work,
The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Source:  wikipedia

Source:  wikimedia (PGN grayscale)

English archeologist Austen Henry Layard
is credited with the discovery 
of the Gilgamesh tablets,
but his Assyrian assistant Rassam Hormuzd
likely found them.

              Austen Henry Layard                           Rassam Hormuzd 
                          Source:  wikimedia                                                                               Source:  wikimedia

The tablets were among thousands
unearthed in the library of King Ashurbanipal
during the excavation of his palace in Ninevah
near modern-day Mosul in Iraq.

Excavation of Nineveh
Source:  wikimedia

Frontispiece of Nineveh and its Remains
by Austen Henry Layard, 1849
Procession of the Bull Beneath the Mound of Nimrud
Source:  wikimedia

Winged, Human-Headed Bull
British Museum, London

Although my mother told a young me 
about the haunting Assyrian art in the British Museum,
I don't remember hearing of Gilgamesh 
until I read the epic 
at Cal State Fullerton years ago.

The epic recounts
how Gilgamesh tragically lost
his best friend Enkidu
and went on a quest 
to find the secret of immortality.
Source:  shmoop

I was fascinated with the similarities
between the flood stories 
in Gilgamesh and in the Bible.
I never forgot.

The Deluge, Based on the Story of Noah's Ark
Frontispiece to Doré's illustrated edition of the Bible, possibly 1866
Humans and a Tiger Try to Save Their Children and Cubs
Source:  wikimedia

I wondered then,
Who were the people who created this epic?
Why did they do it?

Standing in front of the Flood Tablet,
I longed to touch the ancient cuneiform
and absorb the thoughts and feelings 
of all who had created, 
recounted, compiled, 
transcribed, preserved, 
and translated this story.
What drove them?

I think storytelling must lie at the heart
of what it is to be human.

Exciting Story ~ Artist Unknown
Provenance: Estate of Clemens Franckenstein (1875-1942)
Source:  wikimedia

And so fellow IWSGers,
I'd love to know,
Why do you write?


  1. I want to get the stuff out of my head, but then it just keeps coming so away I keep writing, not complaining at my sea haha

  2. I know exactly what you mean about wanting "to get the stuff out of my head," Pat! Responsibilities keep sidetracking me, so sometimes I feel like my brain will burst. Like today ~ I've got about three hours at the Apple store trying to address my LD in Computers challenge and then fix my computer at the Genius bar. Then I have to race home for an hour long video/conference meeting with my husband and a third party on the East Coast. Not complaining, am I! Lesson learned: I'm blocking out the first Wednesday of every month for the foreseeable future! Have a happy day!

  3. Just to entertain. I'm not that deep.
    Since I believe the flood really happened, it's likely there was more than one account of it. So I can see them being similar.

    1. I have no doubt that the flood was a real event. I struggle with the religious vs scientific points ~ always trying to reconcile and understand. I'm glad your motive is to entertain, because you do. Now if I can just remember to order your second book from Amazon before I head to Nova Scotia! Thank God I have Prime!

  4. Thoroughly fascinating post! And your is so hot and humid here in Montreal, I just want to jump into that beautiful, refreshing scene!

    1. Thank you, Linda! I'm glad that you appreciated it! I was afraid I might have gotten too wonky, but I have to write where my heart leads me! It's been hot here too; so I'm longing for my trip to Nova Scotia to get here. I can just hear my grandmother MacDonald: "Don't wish your life away, Weesie!" One day in late July or early August, I'm going to be back on that same boat heading out into the Bay of Fundy to see whales. I'll be posting on that for sure!!!!! Have a great day!

  5. Hello dear Fundy!
    I believe your tacking here quite a fascinating story!
    I have very personal views about this whole thing and they do not comply with the general trend!!
    I think there is much more interesting stuff about the meaning of the story than is told in our schoolbooks or the media!
    I really enjoyed going through this post, it refreshed my rusty knowledge!! LOL!
    Keep well!

    1. Thank you, Noushka! I, too, have personal views and they are not mainstream! And I know, know, know there is so much to the story! And the endless questions I have! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this! Hugs to you, my friend!

  6. Chalk me up as another who enjoyed your post... It was fun to see things I might not ever get to see in real life.

    I used to write so my grandchildren would have treasures to read the way I did via my grandparents when I was younger. Turns out I don't necessarily have any grandchildren to write for, but just in case, I'm still doing it. My grandparents did not write much, but what they did write gives me insight into their personalities and lives I would not otherwise have had.

    Sometimes I think I have things to say I think my benefit others, but I can't be held to Twitter or Facebook limitations. :D

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Snowcatcher! Those written memories from the past mean so much. I wish my grandparents had written things down. I would treasure them! Like you, I find blogging more satisfying. Happy 4th!

  7. Fascinating!. I love the picture/sculpture of the winged human headed Bull!
    I write to offload whatever's in my heart or mind. I write to share my thoughts, and because I really love to write

    1. And you do such an awesome job, Dawna! I love how you open my eyes up to so many new and important things! Take care!

  8. I heard of the story (mainly the ark part) it's pretty obvious ancient Judaism plagiarized the story.

    1. There are flood stories in a number of ancient cultures. It's quite fascinating to read and compare them. You and Daisy have a happy 4th!

  9. That's very interesting! I love how you comment how storytelling must be at the heart of what it is to be human. I really do think storytelling is at the heart of who are are. I write because I love telling stories and sharing them with others!

    1. Sharing your stories with others is exciting and gratifying. I've never met anyone who didn't have a fascinating story. Thanks for visiting, Krista!

  10. What a fun and informative post.
    I think writers write because they need to. It's part of who they are.

    1. Thank you, Terry. I think you're absolutely right! I hope Paj's hoof is feeling better!

  11. why do i write? my answer depends on the day and how the story's going. but mostly i write to keep the stories in my head from exploding. and because on the days i can't write, or the writing won't come, i get cranky.

  12. I really get your answer, Michelle. Sometimes I feel like my head will explode too! And I get cranky too! When I'm in the flow, I don't want to do anything but write, and I can do it for a long time. Nothing else exits. Have a happy, productive week!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.